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Introduction to Managed IT Services
Managed IT Services Providers (MSPs) deliver technology and support services to businesses at a fraction of the cost of hiring an internal IT team – this is called a Managed Service. MSPs can recommend, implement and provide on-going management of technology to ensure IT is aligned with the business’ strategic objectives. Nearly 70% of the US small to medium sized businesses work with an MSP for some or all of their IT needs.
Think of an MSP as the Guardian of your IT systems, delivering on-going monitoring and management of your critical systems, such as email, security, data and your IT infrastructure.
What are a Managed Service Provider’s capabilities?
A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a collection of IT professionals to which an SMB can outsource some or all of their IT needs.
A highly experienced MSP will have technical experts along with technical generalists to help support their client base. This breadth of experience and knowledge typically far surpasses the skills of an internal IT team. A high quality MSP will offer a dedicated Account Manager who understands their client’s needs and business mode in order to be responsive to changing economic factors.
Whilst a business can find comfort from having an internal IT team, it often comes at a cost. An internal team will have different motivations to that of an external/outsourced team. An outsourced provider will most likely offer a performance-based contract with key metrics that need to be adhered to on a monthly basis, whereas an internal resource will be motivated to prove value through volume of work.
MSPs also have tools suited to monitor and maintain thousands of devices – tools that an internal team might simply be unable to afford, or have the expertise to run efficiently.
How can an internal team work with an MSP?
When a business offers a specialised service to its client base, there is often a need for specialised IT software and possibly machinery that go with that. An MSP is unlikely to have the skills and/or experience to assist with specialised tools, so a happy medium can be found: the Internal team focus on designing and maintaining the specialised IT systems and the MSP focuses on running the daily tasks for core infrastructure, like email, data storage and user support.
MSPs are also highly motivated to provide proactive services rather than waiting for something to break or shut down. It costs more money for an MSP to respond to an outage than it does to proactively update systems before an issue arises. MSPs can monitor a wide variety systems that a business may have in operation, including desktops, laptops, servers, backup and disaster recovery solutions, data storage management and of course, security.
Is a Managed Service Provider more cost effective?
High quality Managed Service Providers deliver their services on a monthly subscription basis. This is typically a set monthly fee based on the number of staff and devices an organisation has that require support. A typical list of included support services include:
- Helpdesk for user enquiries (password resets and troubleshooting)
- Email support
- Security support
- Data storage
- Backup and Disaster Recovery
- Application support
- Network support
Beyond these common tasks, an MSP may offer specialised services such as Wireless systems, VoIP phone systems, Internet connections, Network Security and Cloud support.
These services are typically packed as a service (that’s what a managed service is!) based on the number of people and/or systems that require support. Given that an MSP will have literally thousands of endpoints under management, the pricing is typically delivered at a fraction of the cost of a full time IT resource.
MSPs will also maintain relationships with a broad number of technology vendors meaning that a business has choice of technologies. An internal team may not have the time or budget that an MSP has to invest in research and development.
A Managed Service Provider will tend not to tether themselves to one technology and will prefer to remain vendor agnostic in favour of providing the most value to its clients.
Why businesses adopt Managed Services
Unless you’re an IT business, your core business or focus is not on managing IT services. Small to Medium sized businesses in particular can be spread thin on the ground and may lack appropriate personnel to properly maintain key systems.
Forward thinking businesses like to adopt managed services to help them improve their position as a leader or challenger in their field.
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Whilst improving the efficiency and reliability of IT operations will be a key reason why some SMBs outsource their IT, there can also be significant performance gains to be found from using a Managed Service Provider. If an internal IT team (be that dedicated or otherwise) can let go of routine tasks such as logging helpdesk tickets, there are higher level challenges that the internal team can focus on.
A good MSP can provider different levels of support depending on the technology requirements of a business. It could be that a business needs a higher level of regulatory compliance or security, such as in the event of a ransomware attack. This is because an MSP have deep technical knowledge in specific disciplines of IT.
The on-going monitoring and management of software that MSPs provide is increasingly important, because keeping software and operating systems patched and updated is an essential process to protect against security breaches. Even relatively simple tasks such as backup and restore processes are easier now to outsource than perform internally due to the demans on the helpdesk. MSPs have the scale to perform the necessary routine test restore processes required to ensure that backups are actually being run and are actually usable.
Special projects are also a key area for MSPs to be involved. MSPs have dedicated project resources who are able to get projects off the ground which might otherwise take weeks or months if done in-house. Integrating new technology into an existing environment can be technical and time consuming, but because MSPs work with a wide variety of clients across many different industries, they are uniquely equipped to take on complex IT projects.
MSPs have vast experience troubleshooting the products they recommend. They will have thousands of technology devices in operation across many different clients and will likely have seen problems before. This allows problems to be fixed quickly and permanently.
Cost savings might also be factor, especially for companies that find themselves in trouble. Set monthly fees for managed services delivered from an experience IT provider might enable a business to reduce costs whilst dealing with a downturn in business.
Most businesses, however, engage a Managed Service Provider for strategic reasons rather than simply cost reduction. Who wouldn’t rather have a team of experts for the cost of less than one internal expert?
There’s a variety of reasons why a business will need help at some point from third-party IT firms. At the top of the list for smaller businesses it’s the skills and experience that an MSP brings to the table that is desirable. Smaller companies look to have reduced costs whilst they scale and larger businesses look to offload a number of difficult or time consuming tasks, allowing their internal staff to focus on core business.
Avoiding IT issues, data loss and downtime in the first place is also a key driver for many businesses. Small internal IT teams lack the budget and have time constraints will stop them from delivering the level of monitoring and management that an MSP can.
Whether you are a business looking to improve productivity or reduce risk, there’s a lot of reasons why outsourcing part or all of your IT function to a Managed Service Provider.